a lesson in {yummy} restrictions: vegetarian lettuce rolls with oyster mushrooms, chinese eggplants, and shishito peppers

cooking minette's salad rollsyes, i’ve been away for a little while now, but i have a perfectly good excuse-i’ve been challenging myself of late to {enjoy} a lighter, healthier diet, and have said goodbye to many of the fun stuff (for the moment)-the grains, sugar, and generally pesky carbohydrates i hate to admit i love so much. not quite sure how long this phase will last, but i’m determined to give it a good old try. can you imagine how hard this is for someone who likes to think

wok fired oyster mushrooms

about, talk about, and experiment with (as in EAT) food all the time? well, it was hard for the first few days, but i’ve fallen into a good rhythm of sorts (which means i’m beginning to like it AND the way it makes me feel)- i’ve learned to carry good snacks with me: bananas, almonds, awfully delicious (and somewhat sweet, although unsweetened) coconut flakes, berries in a bag (yes, they do get mushy sometimes), roasted seaweed. it also helps to keep the fridge packed with lots of fresh vegetables and greens, (the aforementioned) berries (although they are out of season and i feel slightly guilty), cooked quinoa (hopefully not really considered a grain-looked it up: quinoa is the seed of the chenopodium or goosefoot plant-interesting quinoa article), hardboiled eggs, and greek yogurt (latest obsession). keeping in line with the new diet, i thought i’d treat the family to a fun (and surprisingly satisfying) dinner a few nights ago-it turned out to be one of the best dinners we’ve had in a long while: salad rolls made (rolled) with all sorts of delicious goodies courtesy of the lovely korean market. basically, i set up a {salad roll} “bar” with lots of fresh and wok fired veggies and one amazing peanut sauce (recipe below). everyone then made their own delicious little bundles the way they liked them (slightly less work for me). after we had devoured several rolls a piece, my husband declared that this really was (is) the way to eat! i smiled wide knowing how easy and fun the well appreciated meal had been to prepare. one happy mina :)

for wok fired shishito peppers, eggplants, & oyster mushrooms:

  • in a wok, heat 1-2 tsp of vequick fired shishito peppersgetable oil (i used virgin unfiltered  coconut) and 1 tsp  of toasted sesame oil. add the peppers (do each item separately, same method) to the hot wok and stir fry on high for just a few minutes (3-5), then add a splash of soy sauce (or a sprinkle of seasalt), and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
  • eggplants: cut them in evenly sized pieces and repeat the process above-eggplants may need slightly more oil, and time.


cooking minette salad rolls

delicious spicy peanut sauce:

  • 2-3 tbs organic peanut butter (use peanut butter that is peanuts only-no additives, and chunky works well)
  • about 1/4 cup (more or less) coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp sriracha sauce (or other favorite hot sauce or cayenne pepper will do)
  • 1-2 tbs soy sauce,  2-3 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar or raw honey (or omit the sugar altogether)

**another good sauce option: spicy green cilantro sauce aka green sauce at our house.**

  • other ingredients you will need (give or take): sprouts (bean sprouts and radish sprouts here), organic lettuce, basil, mint, or cilantro leaves (i had none this time), and optionally rice paper wraps (see this other recipe).

wok fired chinese eggplants

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ceviche time: shrimp & vegetarian

ceviche is typically made with fish (sea food) that is “cooked” by being marinated in lemon or lime juice (the acidity cooks the raw fish) and flavored with chili peppers. the most likely origin of ceviche is thought to be from peru, and there is evidence of  a similar preparation that goes back nearly 2,000 years-this dish not only has a long history, but is a great example of how we can look at food as ART and a method of creative expression (which is how i like to think of it). after eating a considerable amount of margo’s delicious ceviche at book club the other night, i decided to make some at home using shrimp like she had, and tofu? mushrooms? hearts of palm? for a vegetarian version- i ended up using organic sprouted tofu (see why) and hearts of palm-i’m going to try oven roasted mushrooms and jicama or water chestnuts next. between the two very spicy dishes of finely chopped ingredients and some butter lettuce and endives, we had ourselves a feast to remember!

ingredients for vegetarian ceviche, and baked organic tofu (you can eat with brown rice):

  • 1 package organic sprouted tofu, sliced in rectangles about1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
  • 5-6 hearts of palm, finely cubed
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely cubed
  • 1 small red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and finely minced (adjust amount for spiciness)
  • 2 persian cucumbers, finely cubed (i left the skins on)
  • 1 bunch organic cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2-3 limes and 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 ripe avocado, finely cubed
  • 1 tbs soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (or vegetable oil of choice) for baking tofu
  • sea salt (to taste)

1. slice the tofu, line them up on a baking dish and spray or drizzle on the oil and soy sauce/liquid aminos. add some chopped cilantro and sliced red onions, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. let the cool, then cut them in small cubes.

baked tofu for vegetarian ceviche, salad, or delicious with brown rice

2. in a bowl combine the baked & cubed tofu, hearts of palm, onions, jalapeno, cucumbers, lemon/lime juice, and sea salt and allow them to marinate in the refrigerator for an hour. add the cilantro, tomatoes, and avocado, combine everything, and serve with lettuce cups, endives, or radicchio.

ingredients for spicy shrimp ceviche (2-4 servings):
  • 1/2 pound medium (uncooked) shrimp
  • 2 persian cucumbers, peeled and finely cubed
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, finely cubed
  • 1 bunch organic cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed (just prior to adding)
  • juice of 3 limes and 1 lemon (more or less)
  • 1/2-1 ja;apeno pepper, mostly de-seeded and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion (i used 2 small fresh) red onion
  • sea salt


1. bring 2-3 cups water to a boil in a pot with a squeezed lemon (from juicing). add the whole un-peeled shrimp and let them boil for about 1 minute (not more), then remove from heat and drain. once the shrimp has cooled off, peel, de-vein, and cut each of them in four to five small sections *(with shrimp it is safest to quickly boil them rather than use raw)*

2. add the shrimp to a bowl with the lemon juice, jalapeno peppers, onions, a touch of sea salt, and cucumbers-allow the ingredients to marinate (refrigerated) for 2 hours.

3. add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro and avocado and combine well about 15-20 minutes prior to serving.
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back to basics: simple zucchini & tomatoes with walnut pesto

a simple dish, a small compromise, and a most beautiful october sunset over the ocean:

La Jolla fall sunsets

in preparation and anticipation of the fast approaching holiday season with all the glorious food consumption it entails (it’s bad! already can’t stop thinking about what sides and pies to serve this thanksgiving) i’ve made the decision to feed us a lighter, simpler, and predominantly vegetarian diet for the next few weeks. after a few nights of different vegetable soups and a nice salad nicoise, it was time for a non liquid meal on the warmer side. lately i’ve been trying to cook with what i have as opposed to shopping for specific recipes, so i wanted to use the beautiful light green zucchinis i had picked up at the farmers market along with a large sweet onion, tomatoes (always abundant in my kitchen), garlic, and fresh basil. the plan was to serve the dish with yogurt and flat bread, sort of in line with a persian “borani kadoo”, but i realized i had a slight problem.

cooking minette's zucchini with tomatoes & pestowe have a dear visitor staying with us, and he doesn’t  like garlic at all, nor basil, for that matter. the dish would survive without the garlic, but my basil was starting to become slightly wilted and had to be used: pesto! dinner would be a simple “borani” (a typical persian appetizer served with yogurt) with an optional drizzle of lemony walnut pesto. everyone was happy. oh, and the sunset picture? i just had to share the magical moment i snapped with my phone a few nights ago-there are few things more beautiful than the special light of an autumn sunset over the pacific!

Image 1

                                          for 4 servings:

  • 4-6 light green zucchinis (peeled or not, your choice), sliced lengthwise in two or three portions
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced in rounds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or omit and use pesto)
  • sliced ripe tomatoes (amount depends on what type of tomatoes you are using), sliced to about same thickness as zucchini
  • 1 tbs olive or avocado oil (best not to use olive oil for high heat cooking)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional if serving with yogurt without pesto)
  • for pesto see recipe

borani kadoo with pesto

in a heavy skillet or frying  pan, heat the oil, then add onions and allow them to caramelize (cook while stirring occasionally on med/low heat until they become light brown and glassy) before adding the zucchinis (and turmeric & garlic if using) and frying on both sides (turn carefully with kitchen thongs). season with salt and pepper. cover with tomatoes, and allow them to cook  (stirring very carefully if necessary because the zucchinis break easily- or cut zucchinis in halves before frying ) on medium/low heat for about 15-20 minutes. serve when any liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated and thickened.




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a sweet corn and lentil salad to round out the summer!

sweet summer corn salad

sweet summer corn salad with lentils

once again, i feel summer slipping out of our grips before we’ve even had time to truly welcome and enjoy it. this summer in particular seems to have blown by so fast it’s hard to believe it was ever here! this may have something to do with the fact that mr. sun chose not to grace us with [his} lovely warm presence as often as [he] typically does in sunny san diego! well, there’s still hope. summer has always been my favorite season-i’m just that much happier in the heat, soft sand on my feet, warm sun on my skin, sweet fruit in my mouth, the smell of the grill in the air, watching the children run free and the sun set over the ocean (it never gets old)! there’s the smell of peaches in the air, windows wide open, curtains blowing in the breeze, picnics, late nights, the best tomatoes ever, the occasional spoon (or two) of ice cream, did i mention the tomatoes?

La Jolla sunsets

one of those sunsets…

when it’s warm out, we tend to eat a little later, and a little lighter. often, if we find the time, we pack our dinners to eat at the beach. when i found sweet organic corn at the market (not so easy to find these days) a few days ago, i decided to make a light and easy salad for our beach dinner. i added small lentils as a good source of flavor and protein, and fresh lemon juice to round out the favors. the resulting (more than a simple) salad was a big hit. we’ll probably have it one more time before we officially bid summer goodbye-it’s only a few days past mid-August after all!

corn cut off the cob

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